Alcohol – a postscript

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The press release for the journal article1 referred to in our previous thoughtpiece has some interesting statistics relating to alcohol around the world as part of its ‘notes for editors’. The following relate to 2016. Highest prevalence of alcohol consumption Males   Females Country Prevalence %   Country Prevalence % 1 Denmark 97.1 1 Denmark 95.3 2 Norway 94.3 2 Norway 91.4 3 Argentina 94.3 3 Germany 90.0 4 Germany 94.3 4 Argentina 89.9 5 Poland 93.8 5 New Zealand 88.5 6 France 93.1 6 Switzerland 88.4 7 South Korea 91.3 7 Slovakia 87.2 8 Switzerland 91.2 8 France 86.9…

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Underwriting engine banana skins

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SelectX has, over the years, been involved in a number of projects supporting underwriting rules engines (UREs). We have helped firms choose the best URE for their needs. This can involve defining business requirements, assessing the merits of different products based on objective criteria and short-listing contenders for in-depth consideration. We have written rule sets for insurers, reinsurers and software providers. And we have carried out strategic reviews for firms who already had a URE in place and were looking to optimise its performance. So over the years we have identified a number of potential banana skins that can disrupt…

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Turning the world on its head

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Turning the world of insurance on its head, that is. We are just back from the Society of Actuaries’ annual ‘Underwriting Issues and Innovations’ seminar in Chicago, where we go to learn what is happening in what one might call paradoxical North American markets where underwriting sophistication and tradition have very different meanings compared with most other places. In North America, and in the US especially, underwriting to the nth degree via blood and urine tests for purposes of preferred-life categorisation is still king and advanced underwriting engines are a rarity. But things are changing, and in two ways. One, insurers…

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Cancer risks: Are we getting them right?

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Researching cancer mortality over the past few months has proved to be a bit of an eye-opener, and in three ways: firstly the level of excess mortality seen in a number of cancers, secondly the duration over which an extra risk persists, and thirdly that excess mortality may extend over a considerable period. Some of the high excess death rates (EDRs) were noted stage II/III disease, where mortality was substantially higher than in localised. For example, from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program1 relating to diagnoses between 2006 and 2012: Cervical cancer: five-year relative survival for localised…

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Is it time to ditch rating tables?

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By Dr Kevin Somerville Ah, rating tables – convenient, elegant and simple. They’ve been used for decades and even a trainee underwriter can use them. So much easier to understand than those calculators and so much easier to compare the offerings in the various underwriting manuals and complain that ratings are too high or low… Besides there’s the current mantra in the market: simplicity. Tables have the virtue of being as simple as we want them to be. Yet there’s a problem that refuses to go away: actuarial risk pricing. Actuaries price for the risk to multiple decimal places on…

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Underwriting and calculators

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On our travels we speak to a lot of people about underwriting manual developments. One topic which comes up time and again is calculators: great invention or the work of The Devil? Some underwriting manuals have had simple calculators for many years, for example for pulmonary function tests, financial ratios and BMI, all of which are designed to help the underwriter by speeding up and simplifying assessment. In recent years calculators have increased in number and complexity. There are calculators for overall cardiovascular risk, coronary heart disease itself, breast and skin cancer, liver function tests, and even occupation risks. In…

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How do you sleep?

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In our articles on wearables and insurance products we highlight that some insurers, in addition to the step count measured by a wearable device, also use sleep duration as one of their criteria for policyholders to gain premium discounts. Sleep plays a vital role in mental and physical well-being, quality of life and safety. Sleep helps the brain to function correctly and during sleep the brain prepares for the following day. A good night’s sleep aids the ability to learn and concentrate, while not enough sleep can affect later brain activity leading to reduced creativity and decision-making. Sleep deficiency can…

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Jigglypuff or out of puff?

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Do you know a Jigglypuff from a Squirtle? If not then you may have missed one of the biggest things of 2016. Pokémon GO was one of the most popular apps of 2016 with over 500 million downloads. It is a free, location-based, augmented reality game developed by Niantic in collaboration with Nintendo through the Pokémon company. Players use the GPS capability of their mobile device to find, capture and battle virtual creatures called Pokémon. These appear on the screen as though they were in the same location as the player who appears as an avatar on the real world…

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Wearable technology – two different perspectives

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We have written before about wearables from a number of different angles, including Gary’s perspective as an owner in August 2015. Time for an update. It’s now almost eighteen months since I bought the Fitbit HR. Let’s start with some of my numbers: Steps taken: ranged from a daily low of 5,500 to a highest of 35,000 in a day (which included a gym visit and a full-on day of sightseeing in New York). 36 holes of golf in a day results in around 28,000. Average daily steps around 15,000. Miles walked: lowest day 5.3 miles, highest day 24.5 miles;…

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The real digital health?

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So far in our articles we have been pretty positive about all aspects of e-health, digital health, e-medicine, wearable devices, etc, and what these will bring. And of course Gary is a pretty enthusiastic Fitbit wearer. But there are a few potential ‘trip hazards’ with underwriting significance. Are wearables really going to be a rich source – or even a reasonably useful source – of data for risk evaluation purposes? For a start, these devices are not very accurate. Can something on your wrist really make a decent job of totalling your step count and recording your pulse? They are…

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